Stryd Foot Pod Review & Zwift Gear Test – Is an update always an improvement?

Sometimes a product comes along, and you think “Wow, I need this in my life”, you review it, and it is everything you hoped. This was the original Stryd, or Stryd Pioneer as it is now called. Stryd has recently released their second generation device, and it is a huge change, from HRM to foot pod, thus drastically affecting functionality. So, are we actually looking at an upgrade with the new foot pod? Let’s take a look!

Stryd Foot Pod Review & Zwift Gear Test – Is an update always an improvement?

Stryd

I have been a BIG fan of the Stryd Running power meter since it debuted on Kickstarter in early 2015, and then landed on my test bench September 2015. I think the major benefit being that it allowed me to improve the efficiency of my running…which sounds very esoteric. What happened in practice was Stryd gave me a new metric to run with – power! Knowing the wattage, I am putting out has allowed me to maintain and, in some instances, improve my performance. More interestingly still has been that I have noticed a REDUCTION in the discomfort I have to my right knee, as quite literally, the Stryd unit was meaning I able to know the forces I was putting through my knee, and focus to that, rather than speed. Remembering that a measurement of power is LITERALLY a measure of the force your legs are putting out!!

So, I’m enthusiastic about running with power, and Stryd, that is a given I think! In which case, how does the new version of Stryd’s hardware fair?

Device Design

Stryd

With the new Stryd Foot Pod, we’ve obviously moved location from the heart rate strap, down to the shoe. BUT there is a method to the apparent madness – In the same way, as cycling power meters give slightly different power measurements depending on their location e.g. due to drivetrain losses, the placement of the running power meter can affect things as well.

Research at Stryd has identified that increased accuracy of power data can be had from a shoe pod device, with the recorded data reportedly more consistent and being “noise-resistant”.

Stryd also attests that using a foot pod for pace and distance produces higher accuracy than GPS-based data, as the athlete literally bobs around during the run, leading to satellites to over-estimate your pace. That might sound a little trivial at first, but remember we are in the world of marginal gains now!

An additional benefit of the foot pod will be the ability to determine leg spring stiffness, (There is a paper on that here if you want to see the details) which allows runners to see what is happening to efficiency as a result of form and conditioning changes, and possibly reduce injury

With that in mind, let’s look at the product:

What’s In the box?

Stryd

The box for the Stryd Pioneer was very much a product box, something which would catch your eye sitting on a shop shelf. However with the footpod, Styrd have opted for something more subtle,  but with details which makes it appear you have purchased some kind of alien artefact with the foot pod sat at the centre of a contour-line themed black plane.

Stryd

There is very little to see when it comes to actually looking at the Stryd. The unit itself is just too small!

Stryd

We have the indicator light on top which comes on when charging. On either end of the unit are sockets for the shoe clip to, very firmly, connect into. Because you are using the Stryd to hold the clip in place, the combination actually works very well with thick or elasticated laces which can have other foot pods flopping around. Once attached to your shoe, assuming you have connected the Stryd properly, this is NOT going to get knocked off!

Stryd

As for the Stryd footpod itself, the unit is small, but you don’t really grasp HOW small until you see it personally, and hold it. I have tried to compare using my smart card, but oddly the picture just seems to make the card look huge, rather than the Stryd small!

Stryd

The Stryd unit is entirely sealed, no charge connectors, nothing, as Stryd has opted for wireless charging, which brings us neatly to the other bits in the box. IN this package you get two shoe clips, the Stryd unit itself, a micro-USB cable and the wireless charger!

Stryd

In many ways the wireless charger for the Stryd steals the show a little bit, as the core functionality of the Stryd has not changed with this version, new features will come via firmware upgrades, but otherwise, it is everything we know and love about running with power.

Opting for wireless charging actually makes a lot of sense of a footpod, you have lots of sensitive circuitry… which you are going to strap to your foot, and then run through puddles in! (Not everyone lives in California!) So removing all possible water ingress routes via charging plates i) makes sense and ii) does give a distinct wow factor with the wireless charging

Stryd

The same contour styling also extends to the underside of the charging station. Unfortunately, you can’t charge the Stryd from either side, the charging light only coming on when places on the shiny plateau side

Stryd

This is one of the first devices I have actually used with wireless charging. Now I know that the Apple watch has wireless charging too, but there is little accuracy needed with the Stryd, just throw the pod on the charger, and you are sorted. Whilst there is no display on the Stryd unit, you can use the Stryd app to see what level of charge the unit is at, and whether you can actually get away with taking it off charge and going for a run

Stryd

Specification and Metrics

  • Battery life: 20-30hrs of use, so about one month per charge
  • Communications: ANT+, BlueTooth Smart
  • Weight: 10g
  • Water resistance: IPX 67
  • Storage: The foot pod can store about 10hrs of data before you need to sync
  • Measurement metrics: Cadence, Ground Contact Time, Vertical Oscillation, Running Efficiency and Training Intensity. But with the new Stryd, we also gain Leg Spring Stiffness and Form Power
  • Other: Auto calibration, average data is taken per 5 steps

This is one of the reasons Stryd have opted for wireless charging. Whilst Polar’s waterproof USB port is very nice, it does still provide a potential ingress for water. Whilst Stryd only considers their device to be water resistant, the Stryd Foot Pod is IPX67 water resistant, meaning foot pod will be quite happy at a depth of 1 meter for 30mins, that’s much better than many “water resistance” devices allow, where you are usually told to remove the device before showering, etc,

I have already covered the main Stryd metrics in my earlier Pioneer review, but what about the two new metrics what do they mean?

Leg Spring Stiffness: Another measure of running efficiency, again taking that marginal gains approach. Leg Spring Stiffness looks at the efficiency of which a runner recycles the energy they are putting into a stride. (Cheat sheet interpretation higher is better!)

Form Power: A measure of how much power is produced to maintain a runners personal form (Cheat sheet interpretation lower is better!)

The new Styrd measurements come down to accuracy again. Power measurement from runners is sensitive to speed. The new Stryd Foot Pod improve on the recording of power compared to the Stryd Pioneer so that the power measurement “isn’t highly speed dependent”

Stryd’s use of the word highly there interesting in suggesting that speed is still going to have an impact on power readings. The reason why Stryd opted to make this change though is clearer – by providing efficiency information that isn’t highly speed dependent, this will allow runners to derive more meaningful comparisons between routine runs, without needing to do special A-B tests, where you are aiming to maintain exactly the same speed in order to allow for the comparison with power output (I’ve not been a big fan of the Critical Power Test – so hopefully this will mean they can be reduced in length!)

Stryd Manual

stryd

There is no direct manual to link to for the Stryd foot pod. However, the Stryd website does have a very clear FAQ and setup approach. Might be worth while looking over if you are having trouble setting up the Stryd Garmin Connect IQ fields

Similarly, check out the FaceBook Stryd Community for some very helpful voices!

Using the Device

No more coin cells – Wireless charging!

Stryd

As mentioned earlier, the new Stryd foot pad has wireless charging built – Qi compatible no less. Just unclip the unit from your shoe and drop it on the charger, the last switches on, and you are done, it doesn’t really get much simply than that.

Once charged, you need to make sure that you are running the latest version of the Stryd firmware, which will be displayed, if needed, when you open up the Stryd app

Stryd

I would HIGHLY recommend that you make sure your firmware is sorted well in advance of heading out for a run, as I’ve found that the unit just doesn’t connect well for 5-10mins after a firmware update. I’m not sure why

Whilst you are waiting for the unit to come back online, it is worth while just attaching things to your running shoes. The shoe clip is a bit of a mixed bag, it handles a variety of laces, esp elasticated laces well, but, make sure that you put the pair shoe clip somewhere safe!

Why? As the Stryd itself is used to hold the clip onto your laces, unlike the Polar S3 foot pod for example which is attached through your laces

Stryd

Now there are certainly going to be two schools of thought on this, one that it greatly eases your ability to move the Stryd between shoes, whereas the counter to that is that the unattached Stryd clip is now another thing to lose,  it is very easy to unclip the unit and drop the clip. With a view to that I wonder if Stryd themselves considered this, given that there are two clips in the box. because it is not as if you can leave a clip attached to a different pair of shoes!

Perhaps another way to look at this, is you cannot leave the clip alone attached to a pair of shoes, as it will just fall off, without the stryd to actually hold it in place. I for one would have been happy to have a slightly heavier clip that I could leave attached to a second pair of shoes

Stryd

Once you are charged, up to date, and clipped in, it’s time to head out for a jog. The Stryd Garmin Connect IQ app works to display both the foot pod and the Stryd Pioneer.

Stryd

Although the app cannot currently take you heart rate from another source when using the foot pod it seems, so you are left with a blank field when running

Stryd

When you return, the Stryd app automatically uploads your run data to Stryd PowerCentre, which allows you to then delve into the data to your heart’s content

Stryd

When it comes to looking at the data from your run, you do really need to be connecting through Stryd’s website. Although Suunto and Garmin may now support power running, it is currently only through the Stryd website you get all of the extra information. Plus to be honest, it is very clearly laid out compared to other data-heavy websites!

Can you Zwift with Stryd??Stryd

Now that Zwift has been ported onto iOS devices, breaking away from the computer requirements, people discovered an “Easter egg” hidden in the code, which brings up a Zwift Running mode as well! Stryd works well with this new running form of Zwift as well!

STRYD

There are two Stryd device ID’s here, as I’m using the original Stryd Pioneer for HRM, and the new Stryd foot pod for the running speed and cadence on Zwift. But I recorded the Pioneer data to my watch for comparison later

To start with, I just “went for a run” choosing my own course, although it should be said, that Zwift Running, does allow you to do work outs for triathlons, and using power meter data for that – note the “PM run.”

Stryd

Currently Zwift running is very much a beta, so your avatar doesn’t respond to changes in power perfectly. Instead, Zwift uses a mapping approach, where for example 200watts on the flat translates a pace of 5min/mile. But using Zwift and Stryd certainly makes using a treadmill mich more fun!

Rachel “Ruby” Zambrano, (Who uses Zwift as C.oach Ruby) one of the Peaks Coaches has produces a series of training work outs specifically for Zwift using the Stryd Power meter – you can find those here Stryd

Obviously, there is no connection between Zwift and the treadmill currently, so you need to set the incline manually, but as you can see from the graphs below, and I HR I didn’t keep things at 7% for long – as it was providing to be quite an effort!!Stryd

Because the Stryd is a power meter, we have wattage data, which is recorded to a .fit file, in the same manner as a cycle ride with a power meter it. The Stryd PowerCentre allows you to easily download your data in .fit file format if you want to look at the information in a little more detail. Or in this case, compare two power meters.

Stryd

Yes comparing two power meters doesn’t work regarding identifying which is the most accurate, but in this case, it does allow us to simply look at the data, to weigh Stryd’s comment that the new foot pod Stryd unit is more “noise resistant” than the Stryd Pioneer chest strap

So let’s look at two runs, the first is a treadmill 6km run on Zwift (Yes I should have taken my helmet off my avatar!!)

Stryd

Now just bouncing up and down on a treadmill isn’t the most arduous task for a foot pod, so there is little noise in the data here – the “drop outs” are actually pauses where I’m stopping to take photos for this write-up

Stryd

The relatively noise free data is confirmed if we look more closely at the power readings. Although it is worth noting that there was an imbalance to the speed recorded on Zwift vs the speed displayed on the treadmill of about 0.7km/hr, so not inconsiderable regarding determining how far you have run in a set period

Stryd

If we go outside away from the treadmill for a 5km run, we’re likely to see a little more noise!

Stryd

Staying with the idea that the foot pod is better at capturing your running data compared to the Stryd Pioneer chest strap, we can see that the foot pod detects my brief pause for a photo earlier, but when I dramatically slow my pace to walk across a foot bridge, the chest monitor initially registers this as I have stopped, and then seems to over compensate, where as the foot pod correctly registers a change of pace instead

Conclusion

Stryd

Stryd has made a large number of firmware updates to the original Stryd HR device over the year since it’s release, but new hardware with the Stryd foot pod has allowed the company to chance their running efficiency with new metrics even further.

Initially, I was quite down on Stryd for moving away from an HRM module – BUT I can see a very reasonable thought process behind the change to a foot pod, as many of the newer training watches such as the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Polar M600 are moving towards optical HRM. Regardless of the accuracy of an optical HRM, if the original Stryd HRM was still available the average consumer may be deterred from buying a Stryd Pioneer if they already have a device which is doing their HRM on the run. I’ll confess, occasionally when using the Stryd Pioneer and my Fenix 3, I would feel that there was some redundancy in the system – using an additional chest strap, and running with two HRM monitors. Now as long as the Stryd is charged and on my shoe, I’m good to go!

This I feel is a very sensible move, as when using the Stryd Pioneer and my Fenix 3, I would feel that there was some redundancy in the system – using an additional chest strap, and running with two HRM monitors to get the running data. Now as long as the Stryd is charged and on my shoe, I’m good to go!

The shoe clip for the Stryd is the biggest weakness on the unit as far as I’m concerned, and I think this is backed up by Stryd including two in the box. I DO understand the utility of an easy to swap system, but surely it would have been better to include a second TYPE of shoe attachment, rather than two of the same. One, for example, which could remain on the shoe when the Stryd unit is charging? I personally would have even considered paying extra for this if they were to put it in the box as a third clip.

Clearly, the new foot pod is more sensitive than the older Stryd Pioneer, giving a more detailed feedback to your training runs.

The wireless charging is an absolute doddle, although it does mean paying attention to the app slightly more than normal – I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever swap batteries on an HRM, and while the Stryd pod does discharge over time, when not being used, you’ll get enough charge to cover you for several weeks from just an hours charge

The fact that Stryd can be used with Zwift, and that Stryd has reached such a user base that Zwift support things, is simply the cherry on the cake for me! There is only one power meter for running currently on the market, but even so, given the work that has clearly gone into the Stryd, and the execution of the product is excellent, so I have no hesitation in giving the Stryd foot pod 5/5

What about the original Stryd Pioneer? Obviously, the focus at Stryd is going to be towards the new Stryd Foot Pod, but rest assured, the older Stryd Pioneer will still be supported, for the time being. HOWEVER – “The long-term role of the Stryd Pioneer is not yet decided” – but I guess that is the price of having a “pioneering” bit of kit – the Model T Ford, after all, didn’t live forever!

About James Gill

A runner first, a cyclist second, and when pushed a swimmer. Working as a GP registrar, I found that I went from walking 12miles a day on the hospital corridors to sitting in a chair. Whilst at medical school, I'd run 10km in an evening just for fun, but having lost the general activity required to be a hospital SHO, consciously being active has now become more important - well until I broke myself!